“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). To “walk in the Spirit” is the only measure of right living for the Christian. Do you inquire, “What is it to walk in the Spirit? It is to walk in communion with the Father, by the Holy Spirit, having the Lord Jesus Christ as my one Object. Nor am I left in this to the sentimental fancies of my own mood, nor to the fickleness of my own impulses, nor to the bias of my own religious likes and dislikes.
“The Word of God must necessarily be my only chart. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Ps 119:9). Look at the martyr Stephen for a blessed pattern of it. What engaged the attention of this man of God, “full of faith and power,” this man full of the Holy Spirit? Two things. The Word of God on earth, and the Son of God in glory—Acts 6 and 7.
Many Christians fall into the serious mistake of making the moral law their standard of holy living. But the law never gave man an object outside himself; grace does. If I am trying to keep the law for salvation, who is it for? Myself. Yes, self is my real object. If, when I have once possessed salvation, I am trying to keep the law in order to retain it, what is my object? For whom do I want to retain it? For myself, to be sure. Then self is my object.
On the other hand, grace puts a new object before the saved one, and the Holy Spirit supplies a new spring of action entirely. Self is displace by the Lord Jesus, and human efforts by the Spirit’s activities. “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15).
“But I thought,” says one, “that though we are not under the law for justification, we are under it for holy living.” No. There is no higher standard of holiness than “walking in the Spirit,” and on this point the Word of God could not possibly be plainer: “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Gal 5:18).
Do not be alarmed. We are not fostering the lawless spirit of the age, nor granting to anyone, much less the Christian, a license to break the law. No, the very opposite. Rather, the righteous requirement of the law is “fulfilled in us (not by us), who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:4). We have seen in Galatians 5:18 that if we are led of the Spirit we are not under the law. So that it is as though the Apostle had said that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who are not under the law (all who are saved are led by the Spirit through the “new man” and the unsaved by Satan through the “old man”: note mine—NC).
“The law was not made for a righteous man” (1 Tim 1:9). In itself the law is “holy, just and good; but when it was applied to man in the flesh, the unrighteous man, it only made manifest what was already there. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom 8:7).
Let us now look at the other side. And what a refreshing contrast it is to turn from the old to the new. But what, it may be asked, is the new spring? It is nothing less than the Spirit of God—“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). And what do we get from this source? Why, the first fruit produced by the Spirit is the very thing which the law demanded, but could not produce, love!
Every one born of God loves (1 John 4:7, 8; 1 Cor 13:1-3); but it is not after a natural order at all. Man naturally loves because of what the object is. But that is not the way the Christian loves, at least it is not the only way. He loves not merely because of what he sees in another who is naturally amiable and attractive, but because of that which the Father has put into him; that is, a new life—a life in the power of the Spirit, a life in the Son who is Love.
The Father did not love us because of any merit in us to draw it out, but because of what was in Himself—because of what His own heart was. Our love, as Christians, is after the same order; it is divine in character. Hence, “Everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” “We love Him, because He first loved us” (John 4:7, 12, 19).
Henceforth we are exhorted to “walk in love”; that is, we are to allow the divine life—this life, after a new creation order—to have, so to speak, its own way in us; we are to follow its divine instincts, and to find our happiness in its unhindered manifestation.
We are not to use our liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but in love to serve one another. The only thing that can now avail, says the Apostle, is the “faith which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6). In other words, the very thing which the law vainly demanded, grace has richly supplied. Thus the righteous requirement of the law will be fulfilled in us who are not under it—who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
While the law told me what I ought to be for God, and that I came short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), even at my very best, grace tells me what God has been for me at my very worst. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The very person who, in the light of God’s presence says, “There is no good thing in me,” that is, in my flesh, can say with equal certainty, “There is no condemnation for me,” in the Lord Jesus Christ.
More than this, the Father is causing the worst things in our earthly path to work together for our heavenly good (Rom 8:28). So that the believer can say, “Though no good thing I deserve, yet no good thing will He withhold (Psa 84:11). If He gives me to see no good here, I can with confidence turn my heart away and say, it is all good there. My Father has found all in His Beloved Son, and all I want I have in Him also.” “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3).